|Santa tested and approved.|
One of the things I have come to appreciate about my beer is how it reflects the changing of the seasons. Lighter, floral brews come out in the summer, followed by their spiced and fuller cousins in the fall. But no season has grabbed me by the taste buds quite as much as winter. These beers come on full blast with big bold flavours. Stouts and Porters dominate my fridge as the mercury drops and it fills me with a dark, boozy happiness.
In honour of all the wonderful beers I have encountered this season, I knew one or two would make their way into the top ten and this beer from Burlington, Ontario brewery Nickel Brook was one of the most memorable of that bunch. 2015's Kentucky Bastard climbs into the #9 spot in the Polkies with its large flavour profile and heavy 12 % ABV.
I was never a fan of barrel aged beers. Not being a liquor drinker meant I often was turned off by the flavours imparted by the aging process. But as my palate continues to expand, I am beginning to appreciate these seasonal favourites.
Nickel Brook has taken their already delicious Bolshevik Bastard and aged it for eight months in bourbon barrels. This has imparted a wonderful oaky flavour into the stout. Pouring very thick and black, it has a thinner tan head that dissipates but rims the glass. It had a big strong chocolate scent. The first sip was a revelation. Dark chocolate, roasted malts, vanilla and that bourbon flavour of earthy oak notes came together to make a fine beer. It became smoother as I settled in and the alcohol kick was warming to the bones on a cool winter evening.
This beer was a slow sipper to consume. I really slowed down and enjoyed the evening with my wife. We watched cheesy Christmas specials and basked in the glow of our tree. It's high ABV means you don't pound this like a crazy man and that is why I include it here. Enjoying a big beer is something I could never have done before. I would have been turned off by all the complex flavours and rushed through it to get to my Quantity beer. Now I know better.
I have purchased another one to age. This is a first for me and I look forward to seeing what happens to this beer in a year. I have been told that it enhances and changes what is present in the brew. Smoothing out the edges and bringing forth more complex flavours. I look forward to that.
For now, run over to the brewery if you can or hit up your local LCBO and grab one. It is not your average beer and that is what gives it a spot on my countdown.
The Polkies roll along and congratulations to Nickel Brook and their lovely Kentucky Bastard!